Downloads FAQ

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(You may see boxes titled 'Sponsored Downloads' at the top and within browse lists on Downloads pages. Those boxes are advertisements. They offer products as purchase opportunities. As with all advertisements, no review or recommendation by PC World editors is implied.)

You'll also see links on the Downloads main page under 'Most Popular Software', 'Latest Software Reviews', and 'Editors' Favorite Files.' They'll steer you to files or collections of files that our editors believe are of the greatest interest that day or that our site visitors have made the most popular by downloading them.

You are browsing Downloads: Lower on the Downloads main page you'll see this heading above a list of all downloads in the library, arranged, by default, with the most popular in recent days first. You can change this arrangement by clicking Product Name to arrange the items alphabetically; License to arrange them as Buy Only, Shareware, and Freeware; Date Added to arrange them by the date they were added to the library (newest first); or All-Time to arrange them by popularity over the long term.

We invite you to subscribe to the free Daily Downloads newsletter. Every weekday it features the newest reviewed files. Just visit our newsletters subscription page.

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What information is on a file's page?

Each file in the Downloads library has a description page that provides detailed information about the file, including its system requirements, operating system compatibility (be sure it's compatible with your operating system), author (developer), trial period if it's trialware, license type ("Freeware" means there's no license), price ("free" means it's freeware), and other specifics. If you decide to download the file, use the Download Now button. You'll also find a PC World Reviewed tab, if a PC World editor has reviewed it, a Description tab with the developer's description if it isn't reviewed, and a User Reviews tab where you can read community members' reviews. You can post your own review when you're signed in, too.

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How do I download?

To download a file, click the Download Now link on its information page. When a file is hosted by itself, that link will take you to a file-download page while the file is downloaded to your PC. When a file is hosted by its developer or vendor, you'll first see our file-download page and then automatically move on to the developer's download page.

Before the file begins to download, your system will prompt you for instructions about where to put the file on your computer. If you have already established your default location for downloads, your computer will either ask you to confirm that location or will simply start the download, depending on your browser and the settings you've established.

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Handling Downloadable Files

What are archive (.zip) files?

An archive contains one or more files in a compressed format. Archive files created by the most commonly used archiving software have file names that end in .arc, .arj, .rar, or (most often) .zip. Files of any type--programs, text, or graphics--may be packed in such archives.

An archive is generally much smaller than the actual size of the file or files it contains. When archived, a file can be reduced in size by as much as 60 percent, depending on the type of data it contains. The smaller size makes it faster to download.

A few file types, including .gif graphics files, can be stored--but not compressed--in an archive. A given archive may contain from one file to dozens, allowing you to get all the files for a game, spreadsheet, or other program in a single download.

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How do I open archive files?

A particular kind of utility is required to put files into an archive; some examples are PKZip, PowerArchiver, WinZip, and WinRAR. The same program, or another that supports the format used, is required to "unpack" archived files.

Both Windows XP and Vista can create or unpack files in the .zip format natively. To extract files, simply select the .zip file, right-click it, and choose the Extract All option. Use the Send to/Compressed Folder option to create such a file. You also can unpack .zip and other types of archives in PC World's Downloads library with any of the archiving utilities mentioned above; you can find them, and a number of others, under the Compression category in the Downloads library.

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What are self-extracting archives, and how do I handle them?

Most .exe files that you download are self-extracting archives that do not require use of another program to unpack the files. As its name suggests, a self-extracting archive unpacks its own files when you run it.

It's a good idea to unpack the files in a folder set aside for that purpose, such as My Downloads. A self-extracting archive may contain installation files that will be left on your hard drive after you install the program; you'll want to keep those files in one place so that you can delete them easily later.

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Is there anything special to consider when I install downloaded files?

Installing downloaded programs differs little from installing other kinds of software. Most programs--whether commercial, freeware, or shareware--include an installer. However, unlike an installation CD, the installer may not run automatically when you unpack the file. If it doesn't, look for and run the 'install.exe' or 'setup.exe' file.

The few programs that require manual installation almost always come with detailed instructions. The Readme file (named, readme.txt, or something similar) that comes with most programs usually contains all the information you need to install the program and get started.

Some programs simply run from where they're unpacked--in this case, look for a file name ending in '.exe' that matches or resembles the program's name.

If you do have problems, first consult the Readme file. If it doesn't provide the information you need, contact the program's creator or developer. You should be able to find contact information in the Readme file; alternatively, check for an 'Author' link on the file's Downloads description page.

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How do I handle files that don't have installation instructions?

Some types of software are so commonplace that their developers don't include installation instructions in the packages. Here are the four most frequently encountered types. Consult your system manual for information on selecting and activating them.

  1. Screen savers: These files usually have the extension .scr. Just put them in the Windows directory (C:\Windows\System or C:\Windows\System32).
  2. Desktop themes: In Windows XP and Vista, extract these files to the Themes directory, located at C:\Windows\Resources\Themes.
  3. Wallpapers: These files must have the extension .bmp, and they must reside in the Windows root directory (C:\Windows).
  4. TrueType fonts: Files with the extension .ttf belong in the folder C:\Windows\Fonts.

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Installing Screen Savers, Icons, and Themes

The 'Screen Savers & Themes' category of our library is a rich source of screen savers, icon packages, wallpaper, themes, and other decorations for your PC.

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How do I install screen savers?

Your Windows screen saver selection includes some good stuff. But why settle for the options that came with Windows, when you can replace them with images from our library that suit you perfectly? To see the many choices, check the Screen Savers section of our library.

To install a screen saver, download the program and save it to your My Documents or My Downloads folder (or whatever location you've designated as your download repository). When you unzip the program, it should automatically extract itself to the proper directory in Windows.

You can find Vista screen savers under Control Panel, Appearance and Personalize. To use the screen saver in XP, go to Control Panel, double-click on Display, click on the Screen Saver tab, and select the screen saver you want from the drop-down list.

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What are icon packages?

If you're tired of Windows' default icons, take a look at the Icons in our library. They can change everything from the cursors you see in Word to the Recycle Bin on your desktop.

To view and install an icon package, you'll need an icon manager. We recommend IconCool Studio Pro or Axialis IconWorkshop. Both of these products are shareware. Freeware programs reviewed and available in the Downloads library unfortunately aren't supported for newer systems.

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What is wallpaper?

"Wallpaper" refers to the image that appears on your desktop behind the icons when all your windows are closed or minimized. It can be any one of several standard image types, such as .jpg or .bmp. Yours may show your PC manufacturer's logo, or it may be one of the options that come with Windows, such as waves, tiles, or clouds. If you want to personalize your desktop, browse the Wallpaper files in our library.

To install wallpaper, download the file to your designated downloads folder and unzip it. When it unzips, it should automatically go to the proper directory in Windows. All you have to do is open Control Panel, double click on Display, select the Background tab, and then select the new file from the ones listed. You may also browse to other locations to import image files by using the Browse button.

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What are themes?

Themes are like suites of desktop files. They include wallpaper, icons, and often music files and sound effects. Installation of a desktop theme is a little more involved than setting up an individual screen saver, icon package, or wallpaper file--but it's worth the effort.

To install a theme, download the file to a folder on your hard drive. Then, using an unzipping utility, extract the files to the C:\ directory of your hard drive. The files should automatically go to your C:\Windows\Resources\Themes directory. If the result of the unpacking is an .exe file, you'll need to run it to finish the installation.

To use the theme, open Control Panel, double-click on Display (XP) or Appearance and Personalization (Vista), select the Themes tab (XP) or Change the theme (Vista), and choose the theme from the drop-down list. You might want to save your current theme first, in case you wish to revert to it in the future.

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General Questions

Can I download your files for free?

You can browse and download files in the Downloads library at no charge, except for those designated "Buy Only," which you must purchase to download. Most files are either freeware, shareware, or a demonstration version of a commercial product.

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Does PC World's Downloads staff check files for viruses and spyware?

All files reviewed by PC World's Downloads editors are checked for both viruses and spyware as part of the review.

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How often are your files updated?

New files are added to the Downloads library often. Old files are updated when developers submit new versions, or our editors may remove old files when they become obsolete or their developers no longer support them. The date a file was added to the Downloads library is included on its information page.

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What if I have an old version of a file?

In most cases you can download the newer version and install it over the old one. (If a new version isn't available from the PC World Downloads library, check the developer's Web site.) Your data files should remain intact, but backing them up is still a good idea, just in case the new program does overwrite them. (Regular backups are a good practice regardless.) Some programs require you to uninstall previous versions for them to function properly. A few (such as Nero's CD/DVD burning suite) even offer cleaning utilities to remove Registry settings and files that the main uninstall utility doesn't handle.

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Problems Downloading

What does it mean when my system reports "spyware" or a "Trojan horse" in a file?

First, keep in mind that there are two sorts of files in the PC World Downloads library:

  1. Files that members of PC World's Downloads editorial staff review are checked for viruses and for spyware and adware as part of the review process.
  2. When a file has been posted directly by a developer or vendor and not reviewed by PC World, its information page will have a Description tab but not a PC World Reviewed tab. This means PC World has neither reviewed nor scanned that file, though in most cases the provider has checked for viruses or spyware.

We do receive many reports from users whose security applications mistakenly report spyware or Trojan horses in files downloaded from Please note that firewall, antivirus, antispyware, and other security applications vary widely, and each program is based its own definitions. Some definitions tend to misidentify certain elements in downloads as "spyware" or "Trojan horses" when no such items are present. Actual spyware and Trojan horses are unlikely to be contained in files downloaded from However, if you're certain your security application has reported such a problem correctly, please report it to

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Why do I receive an error message when I try to download?

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